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Inheritance equality is a complex subject

Many Tennessee parents try to achieve equality when structuring their estate plans, and it often becomes swiftly apparent that finding a perfect solution is a difficult prospect. In a perfect world, all children within a family would be at similar stages in their lives and would have achieved similar levels of success. In reality, however, families are complex structures that require complex inheritance solutions.

For example, take a family in which there are three children. One of those children might have earned a scholarship and grown up to be a successful businesswoman with a thriving family of her own. The second child may have chosen to pursue a career in teaching and is happy with the level of income that her career provides. The third child may struggle with addiction issues and might not have finished college or found a career path as of yet.

These three adult children may be equally loved, but they have certainly not attained the same level of financial security. In such a case, parents are faced with a dilemma. Should they pass down wealth to all three children equally or try to structure an inheritance that gives the less financially secure kids more support?

A third option lies in working out an inheritance plan that equalizes the playing field, so to speak. That means taking into account any and all support that each child has received while the parents were living. Assistance on things such as college tuition, a down payment on a house, investing in a business enterprise or helping a child get out of debt would all be taken into consideration. The final inheritance for each child would be different and would reflect those previous acts of generosity.

To be certain, this overview may have opened more questions than it answered. Inheritance matters are complex, even in families that want to try and create equality among siblings. These are just some of the ways that Tennessee families can approach the topic. Each family will have a unique set of needs to consider, and the final result will differ from one family to the next.

Source:, "Being fair in estate planning", Karin Price Mueller, Jan. 4, 2016

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